Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 9 - BIG HORN

I start this blog with a seemingly random thought... I am here in Cody WY at a small motel. I can hear a horse whinnying outside, but every time I look out the window, I don't see it... I suppose it is not an unusual thing for Cody WY to have horse noises outside one's motel room. :)

I spent last night in the Pines Motel in Newcastle WY. It was one of the cutest motels I have ever stayed at... neat and cozy. I would recommend it!

Today dawned bright and warm. I did not have a long itinerary, only 325 miles, so I had a poky start around 9AM. It was looking to be a hot day. This morning, the rolling hills alongside the highway were lush and green with long grasses. It was beautiful, like watching a calm ocean ripple in the sun. The winds were blowing the blades of grass in the same sort of waves, changing the hues of greens as the wave moved. I was taken in by it because it felt so much like water.

At one point, I looked up and saw the puffy clouds in the sky and then realized that not all the white that I saw were clouds. It dawned on me that I was looking at snow capped mountains! And then the next thought was, "am I going to be riding through that?"

The answer is probably yes, I don't know what these mountains are, but they are in my path!

The road took me up into Big Horn National Forest and what a ride! Beautiful tall rocks on my sides and the road clung to the side of the hills and wound through the openings. I felt like I was in another land, this is unlike anything I have ever experienced...

Apparently the west has decided to repave parts of every road I am riding. And they don't just pave a little section at a time... they pave miles! I have spent some time with flag-men who are standing guard at the ends. I pull up and I usually get, "it's going to be 10 minutes or so". So that means, shutting down the bike and chatting.

Today's ride was more than just repaving one section, up in the Big Horn, a new road was being forged...so the ride was soft dirt. I keep saying I want to ride a dirt bike...I just didn't realize it would be my own bike!

Down the other side of the Big Horn, into the heat again. Temps ran up into the high 90s today as I pulled into Cody WY. I love to ride, but am always thrilled to stop for the day and rest.


Well, I couldn't stand it, I went outside and walked around a bit....
I found this handsome fella about 20 yards from my room.
I showed him my new boots and he approves. :)

I end the entry tonight with the feeling like I am getting a cold. Yuck.
Time for bed.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 8- Flying Solo

This is the day I have been awaiting... to see how I would do out there by myself. Early this morning, I said bye to my good friend Peter and headed across South Dakota alone.
BUT... not before stopping by The Corn Palace! World famous from what I understand. They reface the building once a year, the team works full time all summer and fall to complete it. You just have to love a mural made of corn cobs!
I90 across SD is the land of billboards! I started seeing ads for Wall Drug. In my opinion, any business that invests in a billboard every 20 yards for 200 miles, deserves a visit, even if it IS 25 miles farther than my exit was. Even if it is a tourist attraction (although the woman at the motel the night before called it a trap). You just have to love a fake western street, (Wall Drug smack in the middle). I forgot to get my free ice water though. If I get near it again, I'll go back and get one, just to say that I did.

As I sit here in the cutest motel room EVER, a small family owned place in Wyoming, I am reviewing the thoughts that ran through my head today...and they ran everywhere! I think the most oft thought was about just how small I really am in this world. If you ever want to be reminded of this, take a solo ride through the Badlands of SD. After passing through the spectacular rock formations, the landscape opened up far and wide.

Miles ahead, behind and side to side. I rode for nearly an hour before a vehicle passed in the other direction. It was a little disconcerting, I will admit. The 'what if something happens' thought teased me a few times. But I squashed it with thoughts of my SPOT tracker letting people know where I am.

After that wide open landscape, I ventured north into Rushmore National Park, riding the Needles Highway. It was so much fun! When I entered the highway, the first thing I encountered was a sign that stated,
"Do not interact with the buffalo! They are dangerous!"
"ooooh....buffalo!" was my reaction. I got out my camera and rode with it in my left hand, at the ready for the herds that I knew I would see. boohoo... no buffalo. I guess I have to go into Custer Part for that. Maybe I will see them another day.

Needles Highway is tons of fun to ride, compact little twisty roads, single lane tunnels cut out of the mountainside and "Pigtail bridges". These are cool wooden bridges that spiral 360 degrees. I was pretty nearly giggling as I rode around them, wishing they were longer. Rushmore was just as I thought it would be, only smaller. From the photos, I expected the faces to be enormous on the mountainside. But the scale of them fits into the landscape without making it tacky.

I was quickly in and out of Rushmore's visitor center. The crowds were not what I wanted to face today. Jumped back on my bike and pointed toward WY...

I am finding, or rather, I know that once I park for the night, I don't like to get back on to go anywhere. I did half heartedly go into a store to see if they had some sort of food for me to bring back for supper, but it was a discount hardware kind of place. So tonight, I had a handful of peanut m&m's for supper, and I am thankful I had them in my trunk!

oh, and this is the party favor I could not resist buying at Wall Drug. The doves did it to me. Anyone that knows me, knows how I feel about doves.
Totally unexpected, which makes them so delicious!!

A great 400+ miles today...so far, just under 3000 miles on the trip meter!!

Thanks for coming along for the ride.
peace, bee

Sunday, June 27, 2010

DAYS 6 & 7 Big Skies

The weather was still looking dubious when we set out across Wisconsin, but it lifted and held off for the most part. I was thinking about how urban the state was looking, and then as if to answer this thought, as soon as we turned off the main highway around Madison, the scenery turned almost instantly into the bucolic rolling farmland that one pictures when thinking of Wisconsin.
It was beautiful, and easy to see where the glaciers carved out the hills and valleys.

We picked up the Great River Road in Dubuque Iowa, at the southwest corner of WI, and started riding north. When I think if the Mississippi River, I think of southern states and Mark Twain's books. But it is also far into the north, beautifully winding through the rolling hills of Wisconsin and Iowa. The towns along the Great River Road were lined with brick homes that reminded me of the Gold Rush era.
If you ever find yourself in the neighborhood of McGregor Iowa,
make sure you visit Pike's Peak State Park.
The views of the Mississippi River are spectacular! That evening, my friends and I landed at a the Brisbois Motor Inn, in Prairie Du Chien, WI. It would have been perfect had their wifi been working, but the bright side of this glitch, is that I was forced to relax and do a crossword puzzle. That night had some horrific weather and the hotel allowed all the motorcycles to hide under the front carport. I was thankful, because I could hear hail pelting the motel in middle of the night...
getting up to peek out the window and seeing the white layer of ice outside.

After 5 great days of riding together, Dan (middle) parted company and went northward toward home. I always hate saying goodbye!
After Dan turned right, Jack, my gps, told me to turn left to I90 on-ramp and drive for 350 miles. This made me laugh, being from New England, nothing is 350 miles long! I have another 200+ miles on I90 tomorrow before heading into the Badlands and The Needles Highway.

It's amazing to me how quickly the landscape changes! I90 across Minnesota is expansive and pretty flat. As an old friend would often say, 'you can see your dog run away for 3 days'. It felt like the miles are longer out west... something about the time change maybe? I don't know, but surely there must be something! As I rode down this very windy road, I saw a billboard about Laura Ingalls Wilder's childhood home. I began to think about the earliest settlers, arriving to the land, no roads to mark it and I can just imagine their saying, "yup, this is the spot." People think I am brave for riding across county, but these early pioneers truly were the brave souls.

So far I have about 2500 miles into this ride.
I got all excited when my odometer turned over 40000 miles, simple pleasures, I took pictures of the moment.. :)

On Day 8, I will be solo for the first day, marking the second beginning of my trip.
I am looking forward to it.... it will be a good challenge.

But, the biggest question before me, as I go to sleep...
Should I go and see what all the billboards advertising 'The Corn Palace' is about?

Thanks for following along!
xo, Bee

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 3 -5

We left Canton OH, in plenty of time to make it to Brighton Michigan by early afternoon… in theory anyway. I had two connections to make with friends along the way, and what is interesting, these are the factors in a trip that generally go awry, but that day, all the people meets were smooth as butter. The traffic was horrific!

I80 out of Canton Ohio slowed to a snail's pace...the kind of jam that is so difficult to manage on a motorcycle. I was comparing it to riding through Chicago rush hour a few years ago and decided that Chicago was a cake walk compared to this. It took over 2 hours to travel 36 miles! I shut off the bike and was actually pushing it on the interstate for a while…. Screaming a the top of my lungs, “I HATE OHIO!!!” I don’t really hate Ohio, but at that moment, it would have been difficult to convince me otherwise. Eventually, we came through it and made two long awaited connections. Jimmy from Michigan and then Dan from Wisconsin.

The ride still had a challenge waiting for us. That morning, the weather reports were all about the heavy thunderstorm warnings for that area. I felt as though I was facing ‘running the gauntlet’ as we rode west…the sky was looking more and more ominous. Jimmy had just told me about tornado activity the night before. For this Yankee girl, all this big sky talk made me a little nervous, and I did some heavy praying as we rode under the dark clouds, with giant bolts of lightning ahead. Amazingly, we almost threaded this needle and only encountered a few minutes of rain. Jimmy showed us back roads to our destination for the day, Tommy's house near Fint, Michigan.

All three of these friends are people that I have been talking to for a few years through motorcycle forums. Generally, by the time we all actually meet face to face, it's as if we are old friends. It's pretty cool.

Tommy builds hotrods and chops up his motorcycles to redesign them just for fun. I had a few things that I was thinking I needed to ask him to fix for me when I got to his house. One was an easy fix, and one a little more difficult. He generously gave of his time to work on my bike, and she even got a power wash!

Tommy, Dan and Geno were all brainstorming. I left them in the garage with my bike up on the lift, as they were deciding what to do about my worry that my exhaust is too loud for me to manage for a month.

Tommy welded an extension on the baffle and it has helped to diffuse the volume a little bit. I also tried to repack it the next morning at the motel with fiberglass. Anyone who knows me will really appreciate this photo. I think it is the first time I have actually done any work on my own bike. I used my own new tool kit and really enjoyed it!

This worked for a while, but the best solution so far has been the 33 decibel earplugs that I also bought. They filter out the wind and exhaust noise but allow my radio to come through.

We quickly ran into rain on Friday, which was too bad, as we were riding a scenic route. But it is all part of the adventure. We said goodbye to Tommy after riding over the Mackinaw Bridge (wooohooo, big bridge lots of fun!) and spent the rest of the day putting on and taking off our rain gear. It was a long day, not necessarily in miles, but time. We found a really cozy lunch spot- coffee, creamy vegetable soup and a grilled cheese did wonders to warm me up :)

We pulled into Green Bay WI about 7pm EST. Dan, Peter and I were happy to stop after a 10 hour day on the road.

Thus far I am over 1700 miles into my trip!

Thanks for reading along with me and thank you again to Scorpion USA for the awesome gear!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

DAY 1 & 2 ~ Systems checks

Day One.... Monday 6/21:
Bike was packed, photos were taken, and all geared up, my family hugged me and waved goodbye and good luck. This is the day that I had planned for over a year. I did not race off... it suddenly hit me that the moment was now... it was time to go. I gathered in all my white light, and took a deep breath, looked back at my family all standing in a row waving and rolled away.

It was an unusual feeling...I kind of expected to feel as though shot out of a cannon, but instead it was almost like I was putting one foot in front of the other as the first few hundred yards rolled away.... I am sure much like how my mom feels when she starts a long hike on the Appalachian Trail.

The first day is pretty much all about the business of making sure things are right... rolling systems checks as tanks of gas are refilled. Mentally checking mileage and how the packs are holding up. These days my bike looks not unlike one of those Dr Seuss contraptions from one of his story books. I have gadgets and fandangles attached to my handlebars and packs and lumpy things bungeed to the back.Add in the long striped tassles that fly when I ride, and it is suddenly clear why people
break out in big grins when they ride by. :)

The landing spot at 400 miles, was Wellsboro PA, a picturesque town on Rt 6 with not a lot of motel choices... The Terrace Motel sounded pretty good online, but it was far under what I expected. The saving grace was that the rooms were clean, but the view of the waste water treatment center across the street was a little on the ugly side (eew, not even worth posting a photo). The advertised free wifi was so weak that I could not connect, and anyone that knows me, knows what a challenge this is to not have internet, especially when I knew that so many are following my progress! I have a friend with me for the first few days of this leg...
which makes my husband and many others very happy.

Day 2 Tuesday 6/22
It dawned grey and misty, the rain gear was on before setting out. The first stop was The Grand Canyon of PA. I think they are doing this beautiful gorge a disservice by calling it that, because of the expectations of what the might really be and the fact that it looks nothing like our Grand Canyon of the West. The gorge was misty and foggy, with tall pines emerging from below. Although the viewing was extremely limited, it was beautiful in the fog.

The only adventure of the day was when I searched my gps for a fuel station. It listed choices that were all at least 6 miles away in all directions, but not directly ahead. hmmm... I chose to ride the 11 miles north in search of an Exxon station. Eventually a tiny general store with one pump out front was the old fashioned kind, where you have to turn little lever at the top to zero out the pump and then flip the big lever to turn it on. Remember those?
So, back on the road, pointed south to route 6 again... turn onto it and no kidding, about 200 yards down the street, around the corner was a little gas station! Nothing to do but throw my hands in the air and laugh at that! Technology is great, but it is not perfect. I was happy to have found fuel on a rainy morning in an unknown place.

The rest of Rt6 was a lovely ride, I was constantly surprised as to how many tractor trailers use the road though. I got pretty good at passing them. It wound through towns with interesting names, like Sweden and Roulette, Conewango and Brokenstraw. In these hills of Pennsylvania lies the town of Titusville, where the oil industry of the US began. I would have thought it would be in Texas.

Day 2 landed in Canton Ohio, to have dinner with an old friend.
A total of about 300 miles today, pretty easy all told.
A cold beer and a plate of pasta sure does taste wonderful after a long couple days on the bike!
My guess is that food is going to taste better and better as the journey goes on. :)

~thanks for coming along for the ride!
peace, bee

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Ride of a Lifetime

As I ride my bike here and there and everywhere, my thoughts will often wander to a friend of mine that is alive in my memory but no longer on this earth. His name is Carl and he was my motorcycle safety instructor.

Five years ago, I showed up at my MSF class and met my coach for the weekend class. Carl was a funny guy, tall and thin, with a quirky sense of humor, I often decribe him as a 'biker-cowboy'. We hit it off immediately and during the class, he was using me to do the demonstrations of the exercises. The funny thing was, that before that class, I had never ridden a motorcycle on my own before. It was a duck to water kind of relationship I think and Carl could see that.

After the class was finished for the weekend, Carl and I often rode together. It was a great friendship, I followed him around New England roads for about 5000 miles that summer. It was like having a private instructor and I know that my riding with him has made me the rider that I am today. He cut me absolutely no slack whatsoever.... we would be riding down the road and he would slow down, put on his blinker, quickly look back over his shoulder and if the coast was clear, Carl would 'bang' a u-turn, leaving me still riding straight. U-turns are the bane of existence for many beginning riders. I lost count as to how many times he did this and how many times I fogged up my face shield swearing about having to do another ***** u-turn!! When we stopped our bikes, I would say, "I can't believe you made me do ANOTHER u-turn, I think you do it on purpose!" I would pretend to growl at him. Carl looked at me and would say, every single time, "Summer Girl, you did it, so what are you complaining about?" I would reluctantly smile in reply, muttering "well, I can do them but I don't have to like them."

Carl called me Summer Girl... one of his many references to songs that he liked. Carl would often talk to me with musical metaphors interspersed, and in keeping with his love of teaching, he would not ever surrender the reason for the reference. I would have to look it up and find the connection. I wish I could remember the actual song that this came from, as Summer Girl is not the title of the song, but a girl mentioned in a song from the 60s that he liked.

I found out early on that Carl was fighting cancer. He lived as if he had it beat, right up until the end. We would ride long hard days, and I could tell that it pained him to walk, but he did not speak of it much, preferring to live in the moment. He did not tell me when he had to go for spine surgery, but sent me an email after it was all done. That was just like him... frustrated the heck out of me, but he lived his life his way. Carl had plans to winter in Tucson in a condo he just bought and come back to teach MSF courses in the summer. That winter, he and I spoke via email, he was trying to coax me into taking "The Ride of A Lifetime" with him the next fall. I was afraid that I would not be able to take the month off from my store to go for the full ride, but promised that I would do part of it. It was a 10,000 mile ride to many of our national parks.

Sadly, life had other plans for him. His cancer was terminal and he was given a year to live. Undaunted, he still felt that he could beat it and was still planning The Ride. I ran into a mutual friend right before Easter and was told that Carl had been downgraded and given less than 4 months. My heart sank and I called my husband at work, telling him that I needed to go to Arizona immediately. A few days later, in a rental car, I pulled into Carl's driveway in Tucson. I knew his time was very short when I saw a piece of paper with a schedule taped to his fridge... the header was from the local Hospice. He was in a wheelchair, insisting on being independent and getting himself around. His struggle was difficult to watch and I allowed it for only a little while before I told him that he had better suck it up and let me help. We laughed and that broke a lot of ice, he relaxed and allowed me to help him for the weekend.

When I arrived, he had maps of Arizona spread out on his table, waiting. He began telling me where I was going to take his Road King out for a ride. I tried to argue, saying that I was there for him, not to ride. But it was soon evident that I needed to do this for him, it was important to him. Within an hour of my arrival, he sent me out into the canyons surrounding Tucson.

He thought it would take me about 4 hours, but instead it took me nearly 7 hours. I arrived back at his place in the deep cold darkness of the desert, to find him sitting in his garage in his wheelchair, waiting. He only said, "The only reason I did not call the police to look for you is that I know who your teacher is and knew you were fine."

We spent the rest of the time together mostly eating chocolate ice cream.

I told him to hold out his hand and in it I placed a tiny pewter heart. He asked me what that was for? "Because I love you" I said. The next day, he told me that he could not find it... so we searched his house until it was located... I had no idea what this little gift actually meant to him until then.

It was time to say goodbye, I packed the rental car, knowing that this would be the last time I would see him. I oh-so-gently hugged him as he was in constant pain, gave him a kiss on the top of his bald head and drove the two hours to the airport to go home.

Carl passed away about a week and a half after that. How grateful I was to have had the chance to laugh and eat ice cream with him that last time! As I spoke to the friend who called me with the news, I asked if it was possible for me to have the little heart back. It would mean nothing to anyone else. It took a long time to get back to me... finally arriving by mail the day before I was to go on a two week ride. The tiny heart is now always on my bike.

So, as I get ready to set out on my own version of the The Ride of a Lifetime, visiting many of the places that Carl had planned, he crosses my mind often.

To Carl, I dedicate my journey.

Monday, June 14, 2010


The single digit countdown is on!! For over a year, I have been talking of a dream to ride my motorcycle across the country to see Puget Sound, and it is finally here! I will leave bright and early on June 21st for an adventure, feeling much like a vision quest as I am going to be tested along the way and have many miles to think.

What is left to do? Not sure, really, just little things. I have gone on two week tours before, but never a month. How much more planning is needed to leave my retail business for that long? I will have my computer with me, so if needed, I can do some work on line. I think that I just have a huge dose of faith that everything is going to be all right while I am gone. My perfectly capable 19 year old daughter, Annie will run the store, and my husband Mo, will help behind the scenes. Without their willingness to do this, my trip would not be happening.

Sleep this past week... I wake at about 2 or 3AM, and my first thought might be about how many pairs of jeans or tee shirts to bring, or worry about running out of gas in a remote area.... I had dreams like this before I got married. Those weird dreams about strange food being served, or when the entire guest list shows up wearing wedding dresses. Although, 21 years later, that thought would have made for a very memorable and enjoyably hilarious wedding! This must mean that I am pretty nearly all set to go. This week will be collecting phone numbers from connections I am to make along the way, and fine tune some of my choices for motels when I stop each night.

So far, I have over 9200 miles in the itinerary. "Where am I riding?" is an often asked question. Followed by, "both ways?" I smile... "yes, both ways and lots of sights along the way."

To make it easy, I'll split it into 4 legs, one for each week.

Leg 1, the most social part of the tour:
Across beautiful rt.6 in Pennsylvania, some of the prettiest highways I have ridden are in PA. I will have a friend with me for the first 7 days, parting in SD and he will ride to visit family. The first rendezvous is just over the Ohio state line for dinner with an old friend. The next day, a restaurant in Angola, Indiana is the meet spot for two people that have been on my list for a few years. Having been active on motorcycle forums for 5 years now, I have a 'bucket list' of people that I want to meet. The four of us will then head north into central Michigan, to land at another biker friend's house for the night. I hear there might be more people there for a little party that evening at Tommy's. Friends and laughter, what more could you want?

The next morning, as many bikes that want to, will follow me to ride along the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline. The Traverse City area is a gorgeous section of the country, if you are ever given the chance to see it. Then over the Mackinaw Bridge toward Milwaukee.

A quick visit in Milwaukee to 'The Mothership' (the Harley Davidson Museum) before heading to Grant's birthplace in historic Galena, Illinois is looking like a relaxing fun day. Galena sits on the Great River Road, a scenic byway that I did not know existed until a few weeks ago. We will a ride a short leg of it here before I part company and blast across I90 South Dakota to begin Leg 2....

After Sioux Falls, I will be solo for the most part. This section is the bulk of the wild and twisty mountain passes that the western states are famous for. Needles Highway in the Black Hills to see Mt. Rushmore will be my first taste of them. From here, my road will lead me into Wyoming to Chief Joseph Highway and Bear Tooth Pass. The first time I saw these roads on the satellite view GoogleMaps, I instantly got the "OMG butterflies" in my belly... some twisty sections like none that I have ridden before! I fussed over the thought of these roads for days, with my experienced riding friends saying that I will be fine, to stop worrying!
After riding Beartooth Pass northwest into Red Lodge Montana, I will rest a bit, and then point the bike right back at it, to get to the northern part of Yellowstone on this leg of the ride. The southern part will come later. From there, it is due north to Glacier National Park , Montana.

After riding The Road to the Sun, it's west across northern Washington on Route 20, a highly recommended route to ride. There is a chance that friends will come up to meet me on this road....company will be nice if it happens. :)

Leg 3 begins the reason for making this trip... it's all about the ocean.
Anyone that knows me, knows how I feel about it. There is something that resonates in me when I sit by the water. I am thrilled to be riding through our nation's most beautiful mountain roads, but the thought of sitting by the Pacific Coast sends a calm through me as I feel like I am on a Vision Quest to reach it. The tour around the Olympic Peninsula will begin with a few hours in Port Townsend, I am told I must stop there and take in the little shops.
Somewhere along the Pacific Coast, there will be a much needed day of rest. I have daydreams about finding a little hotel where I can hear the ocean at night. Then there will be the challenge to pull myself away from the water and point my bike eastward toward Hot Springs SD for a Meet and Greet. The road will lead me to Jackson WY through the Grand Teton National Park , then north to ride the loop through Yellowstone National Park. Sometimes I feel as though my fly by tour is not going to give me time to pay homage to these places, but I would rather do this than skip any one thing.

Bikers love Meet and Greets. I will hang out in Hot Springs SD, just south of Sturgis, for a couple of days with riders from all over. They will be doing day rides of the area, but I have already warned them that I plan on being lazy and floating in the pool. :)

Leg 4 begins with a hard to Des Moines Iowa, my longest day of the trip, well over 600 miles. The goal is to make a connection on the Great River Road again, this time to ride south. It is a long awaited meet with a friend for the first time, and we will ride for a few miles and share stories in person that have til now, always been written. At this point, I will be on the eastern side of the Mississippi and feel the pull of home. After saying goodbye to Ranger, I am reaching to connect with some friends to ride back home with. Those last miles home are always emotionally exhausting, so to be invited to ride homeward with this small group is a blessing. They are willing to slow down take on a road weary Bee for a couple of days and deliver me home and I am grateful. It will be a sweet way to end this beautiful tour!

My next entry will be from the road...
Thank you for reading and coming along for the ride!